For as long as I can remember, fall has been my favorite time of year. I remember my parents considering counseling for me when I was 8 years old because I started decorating my room with Halloween decorations in July. I would be my mom to go to the store and buy me variety packs of construction paper only to use the orange and black sheets. Jack-O-Lanterns, bats and ghosts adorned my walls in my room as a homage to this wonderful holiday. I think that I was probably responsible for 3M stock going up after all the Scotch Tape I used to stick the decorations to every available open square inch of my bedroom. I remember being enchanted anytime we would stop and pick up pumpkins for carving. The stacks of wonderfully vibrant orange gourds ranging in shapes and sizes was always a magical thing for me. The first time I saw, The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, I remember thinking how cool it would be if on top of trick or treating, a magical pumpkin lord would bring me presents on Halloween. I still decorate the house a little bit with some of the decorations I have bought over the years, but the real excitement comes when the pumpkin beers hit the shelves in late August and I can embark on my yearly shopping spree. The sight of numerous six packs with their haunting label art and punny pumpkin names stacked on the dining room table make me feel like a kid again. I appreciate any and all pumpkin beers. Bring on the spice, bring on the vegetal pumpkin flavor and everything in between. Whether a brewery uses real pumpkin in their beer or the beer is a pumpkin-style beer, I want to try them all.
To the craft beer community, there is no style more polarizing than pumpkin beers. There are countless memes illustrating many of the feelings and emotions that this style evokes. I have never really ever met someone who thinks pumpkin beers are just ok. People either love them or they hate them. I remember a time when really the only pumpkin beer I could get my hands on was the Harvest Pumpkin Ale from Blue Moon Brewing Company. Now, it seems like one out of every five breweries has a variation of a pumpkin beer. Pumpkin beers are also controversial as they seem to be the poster children for seasonal creep, every year coming out earlier and earlier. Love them or hate them, they are a huge seasonal in the fall and they engulf endcap displays at liquor stores everywhere this time of year. Here are a few ones that are new to this market this year and some that are old standbys.
The New: These are selections that were previously not available in MN in 2014
Ballast Point Pumpkin Down: This beer is a Scotch Ale with pumpkin spices. A little unsure of what to expect, my anxiety was met with a flavorful malty beer with a strong scottish ale flavor. The pumpkin spices in this beer go well with the slightly smoky and dark caramel flavors. This is a departure from pumpkin beers that we are used to because the pumpkin spices are more of an accent as opposed to the main attraction. Available in six packs and worth a pick-up.
Uinta Punkin: If you have had the chance to try some of the other offerings from Uinta, you know that they are quality brews. The Uinta Punkin is a moderately spiced pumpkin beer. Not a ton of head sits atop a dark amber beer. The pumpkin flavor is very upfront and this was a pleasant surprise to me. This is a very smooth pumpkin beer. I think that it is similar to New Holland Ichabod in its flavor and mouthfeel. This is available in 6 packs and currently on tap at Oxcart Ale House in St. Paul.
Alaskan Pumpkin Ale: Until this year, Alaskan Brewing Co. had a Pumpkin Porter available in this market and that was a delicious beer. This year, they switched it up with a Pumpkin Ale. While the Alaskan Pumpkin Ale is much clearer and not as heavy, it still has a tremendous amount of pumpkin flavor and spice. A lighter version of a pumpkin beer, this might be a good offering for someone who is trying a pumpkin beer for the first time. This is available in both six and 12-packs at places around town.
The Standbys: These are beers that have been available for a couple years in MN.
Lakefront Pumpkin Lager: This is the only pumpkin lager that I have tried. It is not a common thing and I think that Lakefront really hit this one out of the park. It finishes drier than its ale counterparts, but still has a great spice flavor. Because it is a lager, it feels cleaner and crisper than some of the other pumpkin ales on the market. This beer is readily available in six packs and should definitely be something you seek out. The lagering process makes this a very unique take on a pumpkin beer.
Southern Tier Warlock: This is perhaps one of the most delicious beers out there for a pumpkin beer fan. It is a wonderful stout and the pumpkin spices are there, but not in a dominating fashion. Notes of chocolate and roasted malt along with the pumpkin flavor make this a fabulous beer to take the bite out of a cold October night. The first year I tried it, it was Halloween night and I was handing out Halloween candy to the neighborhood ghosts and goblins. I set the mood with the Halloween music station on Pandora and as I passed out the candy, I decided that I would see how some of the selections would pair with my beer. The Warlock combined tremendously well with Twix, Milky Way and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Well, needless to say I was hooked. You won’t be disappointed with this beer and I strongly recommend you try to find it if you haven’t already picked it up.
Fall is a wonderful season because the mosquitoes are done, the air is crisp and perfect for bonfires and the fall seasonals are out in full force. This is just the stem of the gourd, it would take several articles and a liver transplant to review every pumpkin craft beer on the market in MN. Hopefully this article gives you a few ideas of some things to try. If you are like me, you have already stocked up on the pumpkin beers and are a seasoned veteran when it comes to combating seasonal creep. However, if you are just getting on the pumpkin beer wagon, there are lots of great options out there. Have fun and enjoy the pumpkin beers along with all the other marvels that the autumn season brings! Prost!